Stories of POWs and More: Changi Chapel Museum has reopened for the public!

An old toothbrush fashioned from scratch by POWs. A never-before-seen 400-page diary detailing the correspondence between a civilian internee and his wife. A Christmas dinner menu for the 195th Royal Army Medical Corps. Do these pique your curiosity? 

Changi Chapel Museum: Toothbrush
An old toothbrush innovatively fashioned from scratch by POWs

If so, then you would love to hear about what I have to say next. The artefacts I just mentioned belong to the recently-revamped Changi Chapel and Museum (CCM), where visitors can learn more about the prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians interned in the Changi prison camp during the Japanese Occupation. 

Changi Chapel Museum: Diary
A 400-page diary detailing the intimate correspondence that tells tales of longing and sorrow

Chung May Khuen, Director of the National Museum of Singapore, said, “Changi Chapel and Museum is widely known for its sensitive portrayal of the personal stories of the POWs and civilian internees who lived under difficult conditions and circumstances. I hope that visitors will find that the new CCM continues to honour the internees and find inspiration through their stories of courage and resilience, especially during these challenging, uncertain times.”

Closed in 2018 for major redevelopment, the museum has once again opened its doors to the public. With donations and community loans from families of the internees, the museum will showcase 114 artefacts across eight galleries that combine personal artefacts with new multimedia offerings to convey the stories of those who were once confined in Changi during the war. Covering a wide range of topics, from the history of Changi to the lives of the POWs, these exhibitions are an interesting way to learn more about our history.

Changi Chapel Museum: Galleries
The museum will showcase 114 artefacts across eight galleries

In addition to the opportunity to view the personal artefacts up close, visitors will encounter a projection show that sets the context of CCM’s narrative with an introduction of the key milestones over the three-and-a-half-year Japanese Occupation.

Visitors can also step into a re-created Changi Gaol cell where the internees were housed to get a sense of the cramped living confines of the internees. The re-created cell includes historical recordings of conversations between the internees which offer a glimpse into their living conditions and daily experiences.

As for those wondering what’s so different in CCM after the revamp, then I’m here to satisfy your curiosity!

Expanded Showcase of War Histories and Lived Experiences

Changi Chapel Museum: Camera
A precious camera successfully hidden away and kept safe throughout an inmate’s imprisonment

The new CCM now has an expanded showcase of war histories and lived experiences. Eighty-two new artefacts and objects will be on display for the first time, so this means that you can see age-old items with a rich history up close. Look forward to artefacts such as an intimate diary filled with letters of longing and sorrow and a precious camera hidden away and kept safe despite the risks.

Changi Chapel Museum: Morse code device
A Morse code device hidden in a matchbox used by internees to secretly transmit messages

Of course, key highlights will remain. This includes a section of the familiar Changi wall, a More code divide hidden in a matchbox used by internees to transmit messages, and replicas of biblical murals painted to give internees spiritual highlights. With objects that hold such riveting tales to tell, there won’t be a dull moment in your journey through the CCM. 

Improved Spaces and Facilities

Changi Chapel Museum: Facilities
The revamped CCM boasts new features to enhance visitors’ experience

The revamped CCM now boasts new features to enhance visitors’ experience. This includes a glass and timber canopy that has been constructed in the Chapel space. Designed to provide visitors with some shade in the Chapel space, it also retains the open-air atmosphere reminiscent of the original World War Two chapels typically built during the Occupation. 

For contactless ticketing and assistance and additional museum content via mobile devices, visitors are encouraged to access the CCM Chatbot for audio tours, exhibit captions in the four national languages and Japanese, and even virtual visits to nearby World War Two-related sites. The chatbot will be available from noon on 17 May.

Changi Chapel Museum: Souvenirs
Those who wish to purchase souvenirs may visit the museum shop!

Those who wish to purchase a souvenir to commemorate their stay may also want to visit the museum shop for CCM publications and museum-inspired merchandise!

Opening Weekend programmes at the Changi Chapel Museum 

To commemorate the reopening of CCM, all visitors will enjoy free admission from 19 to 30 May 2021. Guided tours of the gallery and a recorded orchestral performance based on the experiences of the POWs will be presented during its Opening Weekend on 22 and 23 May.

Changi Chapel Museum: Guided Tours
Don’t miss out on the guided tours during the opening weekend!

With the current COVID measures in place, do remember to pre-book your museum admission tickets in advance and sign up for the opening weekend programmes ahead of your visit from 17 May, noon onwards. If you find yourself with some free time, and you’re not quite sure what to do, I recommend a trip to CCM, because not only will you come away with new knowledge, it is sure to be an unforgettable experience for you too!

For more information, you can visit their website

Visuals courtesy of the Changi Chapel Museum (CCM).

Wan Xin Ng

A film student who loves cats, books and games!

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